Hi all, my name is Kim Barry and I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, several years ago after my house got destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey on October 29, 2012.

Given the current damage wreaked by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the approach of Hurricane Irma from the Atlantic Ocean, and the peak hurricane season, it occurred to my friend Rachel that a blog post on this topic might be timely and helpful for others in creating their storm prep plans.

But first, my Hurricane Sandy story:

My house was located in Highlands, New Jersey, a tiny shore town in Monmouth County not far from where the Lower New York Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Here is another picture.  I know it’s so small you can’t read it, but the actual ocean is on the right, then there’s this spit of land called “Sandy Hook,” then a little bay, and then Highlands.  My house is the hot pink dot.

So Hurricane Sandy hits as a tropical storm, not even a category 1.  Carolinians know we don’t even bat an eye at a category 1 storm.  Carolinians don’t even throw a Hurricane Party (bathtub stocked with beer, all your friends over to sit around in the dark and listen to the shingles fly off the roof) for anything less than a category 2 storm.  So a tropical storm is like, “Meh.” ??‍♀️

But then the storm hits- at high tide.  And it’s a full moon, which affects the tides.  And the ocean loses its mind and starts coming over into the bay.

Atlantic Ocean, you jerk!  What are you doing??  But it’s too late.  And my street, which does not even sit at the ocean, but is a full two blocks back from the bay, is underneath 13 feet of water.

New Jersey never gets hurricanes, so we had all been evacuated by this point.  Thankfully, my husband and I and our dog (our only child), had driven both our cars to his mom’s house in central NJ to ride out the storm.

While we were gone, the water kept rising in our town.  Here is a quiet little restaurant I could walk to from my house called the Inlet Cafe (painted blue) that we used to like to go to.

Here it is again, (it had been repainted yellow), while it is getting hit by Hurricane Sandy:

All you could see around for miles on the ground was water.  It looked like a tsunami.

I was glad we had evacuated.  Several of my neighbors stayed, and they called me as the water rose higher and higher in their houses and they kept retreating to their 2nd and 3rd floors to stay dry.  My street right after the storm:

Look at the guy with the oars in the boat, haha!  He isn’t helping at all!

The problem with this unexpected flooding was that none of us were prepared for it, even those of us who left.  So I had left behind at home all of my important documents; homeowners insurance paperwork, flood insurance paperwork, our marriage certificate, our passports, our mortgage loan paperwork; etc.  I had also not thought to pack any more than a few nights worth of clothing.

When we were allowed home, it was two weeks later, and our street looked like a war zone.  There was sand and mud everywhere.  The Red Cross was there, the military was there… you had to show a man with a machine gun your ID with a local address before they’d even let you into town.  On our street, a dump truck was picking up boats and simply dropping them in dumpsters.  The damage was too extensive and the scene too chaotic to even address whose boat was whose.

The inside of our house was filthy and smelled terrible.  It was as if everything inside had been spun around in a giant washing machine.

Our papers were nowhere to be found.  I think my filing cabinet had floated out of the house. The house had shifted off its foundation.  Nothing could be saved- clothes, dishes, furniture, artwork- everything had to be thrown out.  It smelled horrible, and the authorities advised us to get rid of everything because they “did not know what was in the water.”  This is what everyone’s house looked like on my street- all the contents of our homes in trash bags awaiting pickup at the ends of our driveways.

To be continued…Read Part Two here

  • Wow. Thank you for sharing. I know writing can be therapeutic, but also sharing a story is very intimate. Not an easy task. Thank you.

    • Kim Barry

      Thanks Adrian! Thank you for reading it! When I get to the hard parts I just have to act like it was happening to someone else. Who knows, maybe someone else out there can relate. I hope not!

  • Kim,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to get your thoughts onto paper. I cannot imagine what you went through, although I can imagine I would’ve likely forgot a ton of paperwork in the midst of a storm and thinking it wouldn’t be too bad as a cat 1. It’s so important that we share our experiences both to help and to heal. You left us at a cliff hanger too and I can’t wait to hear the second half!!

  • Kim, thank you for sharing. Was like we were having a conversation…flowed so smoothly.

  • Good prep–story and photos for the inexperienced at hurricanes. I’ve lived near the water all my life–even in Brooklyn–by Jamaica Bay. Flooding, wind, fires, washing machines and boats in the street. I worked for a property & casualty insurance company–ALWAYS take before and after pictures–a picture is worth a 1000 words and adjusters often think the public exaggerates. The crest of the water–get those cameras out.

    • Kim Barry

      Yes! Good point Donna! I think that in all the excitement before and after a storm we forget to document as objectively as we can…..it can make a big difference!

  • Kim,
    I love how I can imagine your hand gestures and the pitch of your voice through out the story! I know your experience must have been very hard on you but I am thankful for your great advise! I love the idea of a checklist for the important paperwork. A waterproof container that holds all paperwork would be ideal for these type of situations. Also storing the container in a safe location and easy to access when packing to evacuate. Thank you again for sharing your story. I’ll be looking out for Part 3!

    • Kim Barry

      Thank you so much for reading it and for your kind comments! I love that you can picture me saying it;-) lol

  • What you’re doing in recounting your experience is great. It will help all of us who may one day encounter a similar tragedy. Thanks, Kim!

  • How absolutely devastating! Thank you for sharing your story. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.

  • Cristi Kearn

    Weather is crazy. We lived through floods in Brisbane, Australia in 2011. So, I know the devastation weather can cause. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • I think no matter how many hurricanes or tropical storms you go through, there is always that one, like TS Sandy, or Katrina, TS Allison, or Harvey, and now Irma that will knock you off your foundation and make you rethink all you thought you knew from prep, to evacuation, to saving the things you think are the most important.

    I’m outside of Houston, and while our house, in some small miracle didn’t take on water, we have many friends that lost everything. We evacuated several times with pets, important documents, and we’ve stayed and wondered if we’ve made the right decisions.

    Thank you for sharing your story. As devastating as it has been for you and others, I hope that it will help give people a starting point to prepare and remember that mother nature is fierce.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. Even for those not in a storm’s path, it’s important to not put off taking care of important things. You never know what’s going to happen

  • I love your personal story and photos. My parent’s house got 7 feet of water from Katrina, its not easy rebuilding. I remember before the storm thinking that it wasn’t going to be a big deal. Boy were we so wrong.

  • Incredible story. Thank you for sharing.